Nashville singer/songwriter Armon Jay will be releasing his debut full-length, Everything’s Different, Nothing’s Changed. on January 21. A culmination of Armon’s two-year journey from, as he puts it, “desolation to consolation,” his debut album is a manifestation of restored hope. A candidly honest storyteller, his style is reminiscent of artists such as Paul Simon, Bright Eyes and Ryan Adams. Everything’s Different, Nothing’s Changed, draws from these influences, while solidifying a unique sound that is distinctly Armon Jay.
Ghettoblaster receently caught up with Jay to discuss the record. This is what he said about it.
When did you begin writing the material for your most recent album?
The songs on the album were written from as early as spring 2010, to two weeks before going into the studio Aug 2013. Pretty long stretch. Don’t know if I will ever have that luxury of time again. It made it easy to sift through the songs to find the right ones that fit a complete story…all of my experiences in those years.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
The hardest song to actually write was the title track ‘Everything’s Different, Nothing’s Changed’ I obsessed over the lyrics like I never have before with a song. I still don’t know why, but mainly because it was the most vulnerable song I’ve ever written. And, the thoughts and ideas behind it were complex from the start. But I knew that if I could somehow piece it all together, that it would become my favorite song off the record. I knew it would become my own personal anthem. I remember having 7 different alternate verses. I literally felt like I was going crazy. I would sit in my fiance’s (which is now my wife) basement apartment and for hours and hours I would go around in circles, writing lyrics for it. It was bizarre, because it wasn’t that the lyrics weren’t coming. It was just hard to organize and compress it all down. Because at the time, it just felt like I was writing an open and un-ended novel. But I finally made it out and finished it. The recording process for it was a piece of cake for some reason… Everything fell right into place. I think it was because I was most prepared with that one, going into the studio. I knew it had blood, sweat and tears on it. So to finally record it was very rewarding.
Which of the songs on the record is most different from your original concept for the song?
‘Flight From Sorrow’ (track 2).
I had a different version of it before I went into the studio. I even released it on an EP the previous year. So, I already had a ‘stamped’ version of it you could say. The original version was very slow and intimate. Then the producer flipped it upside down and one day, while in the studio, we actually re-wrote it together. It morphed into a more up tempo, happy feelin’ song. Which makes for a paradox, because the lyrics to the song are super sobering, but it was amazing to see the vision that Joshua had for it, and to make it what it is today. It changed the whole perspective of the song. And, it’s now one of my favorites of the album.
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record? Who produced the record?
I can honestly say, that I was the weakest link on the record, as far as musicianship. I was privileged enough to have an amazing group of dudes sing and play on it. They completely brought the album to an different level. It was such a good feeling, being able to pass the torch on while in the studio to these guys, and watch the magic happen. One guy in particular – Isaac Russell. He’s seriously one of the most talented guys I’ve ever met. He sang a lot of BGVs on the album, as well as playing bass. He’s the sweetest dude too. AND he has an album coming out soon that is absolutely unreal.
Joshua James produced the album. He’s an artist/songwriter as well, so I thoroughly enjoyed working with him. He taught me a ton. Flipped it all upside down and challenged me. I’m incredibly grateful to have worked with him. Wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. He’s the raddest.
What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?
Joshua taught me a lot of thing’s actually. For one, he taught me how to look at my songs through a completely different lens than before, challenging me to abandon all my pre-conceived notions on how my songs should be. Yet, it never once felt like he was taking over. It felt completely natural, like my passion for music and art were being re-ignited. It totally was the same feeling I remember having, when I first started playing music…all the way back to when I was 14. He made it all exciting again.
The most important thing I took away from my experience working with JJ was this – To embrace your true self as an artist, and just ‘sing the song’. I’ll never forget those words he said to me one day. I was recording one of the jams, and he just stopped the whole thing –and spoke those words to me from the talk back mic in the control room…”AJ, Just sing the song’
As simple as that sounds, a light bulb went off in my head when he said it.
Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties the record together?
The album is about my experiences over the last few years; the good and the bad. I painted it through a story of ‘Darkness’ traveling to ‘Light’. The whole record is about my journey through it. The process involved an array of struggles and ultimately overcoming them. For me, the record is about going through depression, anxiety, insomnia, and addictions; and learning how to find my way out of those dark places. And also deciding to make my peace with some of the things I can’t change. It’s pretty much in chronological order. Treading thin waters of a ‘concept’ album. But it’s really not. It’s just my story.
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
I’ve played most of them live by now. I would have to say the song that gets the strongest response is the title track ‘EDNC’. It’s cool to see people connect with it. It opens up a lot of good conversations.